Like the Wonder Wheel spinning out of control, the fight over redeveloping Coney Island has for months been on the verge of breaking down, with an intransigent landlord, defiant mayor, and a warring cast of amusement operators, housing advocates, unions, and low-income residents. But it appears the chaos has finally come to an end, as the area’s local City Council member said today that a deal had been reached with the landlord, and that the city’s long-stalled redevelopment plan could go ahead.
“The Bloomberg administration has reached an agreement with Thor Equities,” Dominic Recchia said at a City Hall press conference in response to questions from AN.
In recent years, Thor, run by developer Joe Sitt, had bought up a number of properties in what remains of the amusement district, including Astroland, which closed for good last year. He originally demanded $165 million from the city for the 10.5 acres he controls, which cost him $92 million to acquire. The best offer he got was $105 million. Without Thor’s land, the city would struggle to go forward with its redevelopment proposal, and since Recchia backed the developer, it is unlikely that the plan would go to a vote before the council, as is due later today, without a deal being reached.
Andrew Brent, a spokesman for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, would not go so far as to say the deal was sealed, but he did acknowledge that negotiations were underway. “We’re not quite there,” he said. “Hopefully there will be more to say in a bit.” A joint press conference with the council and the mayor is expected after today’s vote, at which point the final details for the deal will be revealed.
Recchia has already won certain concessions from the administration last week, such as union employment, increased affordable housing, and infrastructure improvements. He also announced today promises from the administration to build a new community center and school, along with the future landmarking of the Shore Theater.
The one major issue hanging in the balance is the expansion of the open-air amusement district, a Recchia priority. The area dedicated to open-air amusements currently stands at 9 acres, running between the Cyclone and Keyspan Park, but amusement operators are hoping to expand that to 15 acres, including six west of the ballfield. With Sitt out of the picture, there is now less need for residential development in the area, making room for additional amusements.
“My dream is to increase it; my goal is to increase it,” Recchia said, referring to the amusement area. “As soon as the administration works out their deal, we’ll see what we can do with the land.”